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Little Canada Lowell, MA

When Lowell’s Little Canada neighborhood was torn down in 1964 to make way for urban redevelopment, it represented the end of an era. “L’ptit Canada” was home to French Canadians and their descendants who had settled in Lowell at the turn of the century. Its 325 buildings were populated by over 2500 French Canadians who owned the plurality of the 110 apartments, restaurants, and businesses in the area. In the heart of the city, it was a hub of French Canadian culture. Many of the populace made t...



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When Lowell’s Little Canada neighborhood was torn down in 1964 to make way for urban redevelopment, it represented the end of an era. “L’ptit Canada” was home to French Canadians and their descendants who had settled in Lowell at the turn of the century. Its 325 buildings were populated by over 2500 French Canadians who owned the plurality of the 110 apartments, restaurants, and businesses in the area. In the heart of the city, it was a hub of French Canadian culture. Many of the populace made their living working in the nearby Lawrence and other mills. There were French Canadian bookstores, markets, and social clubs with churches and parochial schools within walking distance. It remains the home of the Lowell Day Nursery, which remains one of the oldest child care centers in the United States.

The neighborhood arose in large part by Samuel Marin, one of the pioneer French Canadians in Lowell who arrived in 1857 and was employed by a Yankee dry goods firm. In 1865, he was hired by the textile corporations to recruit French-Canadian families from Quebec to work in the mills. His connections with the mill owners and subsequently the Locks and Canals Corporation allowed him to be the first developer of a large vacant area near the Lawrence Mills that became known as L’Ptit Canada – Little Canada. L’Ptit Canada became the Plymouth Rock of Franco life in Lowell. It was here that giant tenement blocks were constructed which housed scores of immigrant families, eventually creating the most densely populated living area in the United States except in parts of Brooklyn. With the decrease of the textile industry beginning in the 1920s, Little Canada, like other areas of Lowell, took on a well-worn look. In response to these conditions during the post-war era, federal urban renewal programs began to throughout the country. In many ways, Lowell was a model for future urban redevelopment projects as it was the first city to complete a commercial urban renewal project by using eminent domain to seize property from the private sector, then sell it back to the private sector. The Church Street urban redevelopment project, spearheaded by Union National Bank president Homer Bourgeois and city manager Frank Barrett became the prototype model.

Despite the election in 1961 of city councilors who challenged urban renewal and local residents to hold out the Northern Canal Urban Renewal Project, went ahead. One of the areas thoroughfares, Moody Street, had earned a reputation of crime, gambling, and prostitution, both during WWII and afterwards and City Hall was eager to wipe the slate clean. One of the beneficiaries of this demolition was the Lowell Technological Institute which used the land for erecting new dormitories and classrooms. LTI would merged with Lowell State College in 1975 to form the University Lowell, becoming part of the Massachusetts University system in 1991 as UMass, Lowell. The the land not used by LTI was turned over to commercial business. 

In 1977, a monument was erected at the corner of Aiken and Hall Streets with the following text: 

Le Petit Canada – Little Canada  

 

En souvenir des Canadiens de langue Francaise edleurs descendants. Les Franco-Americainsque ont vécu ici. Nos coeurs n’oublieront jamais leur courage, leurs sacrifices, leur foileur foileur fierté.  

  

On this site grew the heart of the Franco-American community. Hard working French Americans came to fill the mills of Lowell and build a tradition ofaith, generosity, and pride.  

 

Aiken – Cabot – Cheever – Coolidge – Hall – Melvin –  

Montcalm – Pawtucket – Perkins – Suffolk – Tucker – Ward   

 

Je Me Souviens! –  Lest WForget! 

 

1977 

Erected by 

The Franco-American people 

and 

The Oblate Fathers of St. Jean Baptiste Parish 

This stone comes from one of the  

last blocks of large wooden  

apartment houses to be torn down 

 

 


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November 12
2018

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